Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health has abandoned a plan to shelter 40 unaccompanied immigrant children in its Devon, Chester County facility, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report.
News that Devereux had been granted a $40.2 million contract with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to house migrant young people became public in September 2019. The decision to shelter children there had been protested by the facility’s Devon neighbors — the ORR program is an extension of the federal migrant detention centers that have caused widespread outcry in Berks County and across the country.
Word that Devereux is backing out of housing migrant children at the Devon site comes after Inquirer reporters detailed how 41 children had been raped or abused at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health locations over the past quarter-century. Following the Inquirer report, the City of Philadelphia temporarily stopped sending children to the organization, and 14 of 17 members of City Council have called for the complete termination of all city contracts with the company.
On Sept. 20, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, (D-PA), wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ acting inspector general, urging her to “immediately investigate allegations of sexual abuse and neglect at shelters for migrant youth operated by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, and what the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is doing to protect children within their care.”
On Thursday, ORR did not respond to a WHYY News request for comment to confirm whether the contract was cancelled or why plans to house children had been abandoned.
A Devereux representative did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In addition to the reports about abuse and neglect at Devereux, there may simply be fewer migrant young people for a proposed facility to shelter. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has expelled more than 2,000 migrant children at the border since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy released in March. The policy orders border patrol agents to expel immigrants without documentation at the border, including minors traveling alone. It prohibits groups of people from being held together in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a part of the policy, the Trump administration has also been holding hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unaccompanied minors in hotels in Arizona, a practice a federal judge has ordered stopped.
The terms of Devereux’s federal grant included provisions to house immigrant children in five states plus a transitional foster care program in New Jersey. The facilities in Colorado, Texas, and Connecticut were already licensed to receive young people, but ORR did not confirm whether any children are currently living there.
Disclosure: WHYY has received funding from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.
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